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 Volume 1.11  This View’s Column April 22, 2002 


   

“The Curse of an Open Mind”

Where is Lewis Carroll When You Need Him?

   
         
   

A Brief Discourse on Nonsense Writing

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought....

Lewis Carroll is, of course, the nom de plume of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, nineteenth-century author of the famous “Alice” books: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (And What Alice Found There).

Dodgson was a master of nonsense writing, explained at the BBC’s h2g2, the “Earth Edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”:

Nonsense can best be defined as an extreme form of parody, rather than as a separate genre in its own right. It can be distinguished from its near-neighbour, gibberish, in that while the latter aims for a complete breakdown in meaning, nonsense tends to remain more or less within the established boundaries regarding literary form and structure. However, nonsense delights in satirising the ridiculous by making it still more ridiculous, to the point of irretrievability.

Two Stories of a Hopeful Head Football Coach

We have need of a Lewis Carroll these days. Let me begin to explain why by telling a little story:

A college on the East Coast was looking for a new head football coach. The school is “denominational”: it is affiliated with a Protestant Church; the faculty and studentry is largely Christian; consequently, most of the trustees, alumni, and benefactors are Christians. An assistant football coach at a midwestern university was interviewed for the position. He is, as they say, openly homosexual, has a steady boyfriend, and is an activist for homosexual “marriage”.

He got no further than the initial interview. Apparently, the college’s athletic director “vacillated” whether to call him back for a second interview, for the applicant was later quoted as follows: "After deliberation, he decided not to, with the explanation that he did not believe that my homosexual activism would mesh well with that college.” Agreeing that the applicant would not be a very good fit at their school, the college’s assistant athletic director of human resources was quoted as saying, “We’re a Christian community with a Christian alumni. Anything that would stand out that much is something that has to be looked at.... It was one of many variables that was considered.” And a student, a leader of the college’s most active evangelistic organization, was quoted thus: “Wow, it would be really hard for him here. He would be poorly received by the student body in general.”

Of course, that story is not true. You can be assured it is not true, because you have never heard of it.

Had a homosexual football coach been denied a position at a college because of his homosexual activism — even were that supposedly only “one of many variables that was considered” — anybody living in the USA would be unlikely to get by without hearing about it. Often. Over and over again. And repeatedly, too. The college’s actions, and especially the comments from faculty and staff, would have evoked shrill and angry cries of discrimination — “homophobia”, don’t you know — and would be used as one more alleged example of why even more anti-discrimination legislation is necessary.

After all, this is the twenty-first century.

Almost the exact opposite story, however, is quite true:

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, was looking for a new head football coach. The school is liberal and diverse, and has an “active gay community”. Ron Brown, assistant coach for the Nebraska Corn Huskers, applied for the position. After an initial interview, he was not called back for another: he is, you see, a fervent Christian who makes no bones about his faith, often reads the Bible in public, and thinks that homosexuals are living sinful lives and need to be brought to Jesus Christ.

The “quotations” used for the first story are actually modified quotations about the Brown-Stanford event, from an article in the Daily Nebraskan, Apr. 11. In reality, Stanford’s athletic director is supposed to have “vacillated” whether to bring Brown back for another interview, and Brown was quoted as saying, “After deliberation, he decided not to... with the explanation that he did not believe that my Christian convictions would mesh well with that university.” Alan Glenn, identified as Stanford’s assistant athletic director of human resources, is quoted as follows: “We’re a very diverse community with a diverse alumni. Anything that would stand out that much is something that has to be looked at.... It was one of many variables that was considered.” (Ellipsis in original.) And Courtney Wooten, a sophomore sociology and studio art major and social director of Stanford’s Queer Straight Social and Political Alliance, is quoted, “Wow, it would be really hard for him here. He would be poorly received by the student body in general.”

Something tells me that you are not surprised by any of this. You’re not surprised that a prestigious university on the west coast is liberal, is “diverse”, and has an “active gay community”. You’re not surprised that a job applicant was turned down, at least in part, because he is a professing Christian who, consequently, does not support the homosexual “lifestyle”. And you’re not surprised that nobody in mainstream media has cried “discrimination” or “Christophobia”, and that nobody has called for more anti-discrimination laws.

After all, this is the twenty-first century.

Mark Simon to Stanford’s Defense

.... And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came! ....

I myself have been able to tell you this story, so far. But I warn you: we are now approaching a quite different venue, where the extraordinary skills of the likes of Lewis Carroll may be required.

A week after The Daily Nebraskan published its story on Ron Brown and Stanford University — a very well-written and balanced article, by the way — the San Francisco Chronicle ran a column by Mark Simon. Maybe you will be surprised. Maybe not. But Mark Simon defended Stanford’s decision; his column was entitled “Stanford right to pass on Christian coach: Gridiron and religion should be separate”. It begins thus:

There may be no atheists in foxholes, but it is entirely possible there are nonbelievers on the campus of Stanford University, which prides itself on being strictly broad-minded. In fact, it’s quite likely there’s an atheist or two on the football team and quite probably a few homosexuals. All of which might be good enough reason not to hire a football coach who wants to use his cap and whistle to further his own Christian goals, which include “winning” homosexuals to Christ. Or maybe not. Frankly, it’s a little confusing, which, it could be said, is the curse of an open mind. (emphasis added)

Actually, so far, I agree with Simon. Certainly, there are arguments pro and con in this situation. Exceedingly rare is the situation in which there aren’t arguments pro and con: whether all of them — or any of them — make sense is another matter.

By the time he makes his way to the end of his column, though, Simon has left the indisputable far behind and launched into the incomprehensible:

Stanford is diverse and liberal in the philosophical sense, rather than the political. Diversity means diversity of thought. An essential element of a Stanford education, it would seem, is exposure to a broad range of thinking, lifestyles and beliefs — a purposeful challenge to the way of thinking you brought there with you. “One thing I’ve tried not to do,” Brown said in an interview with a Nebraska media outlet, “is separate my coaching from who I am. Some people have a problem with that. They want to separate my coaching from my faith in Christ. I can’t do that. That would be a huge hypocrisy. You have to be who you are.” No one is suggesting Brown should be anything less than who he is. But it would seem Stanford is perfectly justified in rejecting Brown for who he is, since that’s the criteria he proposes.

If you don’t have to read that passage several times, to make yourself believe that somebody actually wrote it, you’re quicker than I am. Or, maybe, more familiar with nonsense writing than most people are.

Here, in my considered opinion, is another way of saying what Simon wrote — more direct, less obtuse:

Stanford entertains and encourages different ways of thinking. In fact, the University thinks that exposure to different ways of thinking, and challenges to one’s own way of thinking, is essential to education. Ron Brown is a practicing Christian, who believes that homosexual activity is immoral, and he challenges atheists and homosexuals with his Christian convictions. That would be a pretty darned different way of thinking, believing, and living at good old Stanford U. Therefore, he just wouldn’t do at that place, and they were right to show him the door.

Yes. Where is Lewis Carroll when you need him.

.... One two! One two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

(Jabberwocky)

Come to think of it, another way of saying what Simon wrote — even more direct, even less obtuse — might make more sense:

Stanford University encourages diversity of thought, belief, and lifestyles as essential to education. Ron Brown’s way of thinking, believing, and living would really increase the diversity of thought, belief, and lifestyles at Stanford. Therefore, it cannot be allowed.

Whoa.... I’m... starting to... get dizzy....

What’s Really Going On Here

Let’s get honest. Ron Brown was rejected because he is a believing Christian who doesn’t leave his faith behind when he walks out the church door.

Contrary to claims of “diversity”, and the necessity of having one’s thinking challenged as essential to education, Brown was rejected precisely because his thinking constitutes “diversity” from what has become acceptable at Stanford, and precisely because his “diversity” would provide a “challenge” to the thinking of the campus milieu.

Oops. Maybe I have been conjuring the wrong author. Perhaps, instead of Lewis Carroll to help us to understand the situation, we would be better served by George Orwell, nom de plume of Eric Blair, author of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm.

The only kind of thinking that liberal American universities these days want to have challenged are Judeo-Christian moral values — especially those concerning sexual morality, and the condemnation of homosexual activity, in particular — and the values that have made Western civilization — especially individual freedom, individual responsibility, and the dignity of the person.

Oh. The Curse of an Open Mind, it seems, might just be to have your brains fall out.

ELC 2002

   


 Volume 1.11 This View’s Column April 22, 2002 





The View from the Core, and all original material, © E. L. Core 2002. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”